Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Some breakfast cereals that are overly fortified with nutrients like vitamin A, zinc, and niacin may actually pose health risks to children because the foods are fortified to provide an adult’s recommended intake of those nutrients. These are the findings of a report by the Environmental Working Group, a health advocacy organization that says millions of American children are eating overly fortified cereals every day. Part of the problem, the group says, is that nutrition labels are not age-specific–and higher nutrient levels on cereal packages may actually sway parents’ purchasing decisions because they think the products are healthier for their kids.
More from USA Today:
Only “a tiny, tiny percentage” of cereal packages carry nutrition labels that list age-specific daily values, Sharp says. “That’s misleading to parents and is contributing to the problem.”
The daily values for most vitamins and minerals that appear on nutrition facts labels were set by the FDA in 1968 and haven’t updated, she says, making them “wildly out-of-sync” with currently recommended levels deemed safe by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.
Getting adequate amounts of all three nutrients is needed to maintain health and prevent disease, but the report says that routinely ingesting too much vitamin A can, over time, lead to health issues such as liver damage and skeletal abnormalities. . High zinc intakes can impair copper absorption and negatively affect red and white blood cells and immune function, and consuming too much niacin can cause short-term symptoms such as rash, nausea and vomiting, the report says.
Image: Cereal bowl with milk, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, June 9th, 2014
Young kids start recognizing foods according to brand names between ages 3 and 4, a new Irish study has found–and their brand recognition is higher among unhealthy foods. Reuters has more:
Food-brand knowledge predicts what kids will ask for later, said lead author Mimi Tatlow-Golden of the School of Psychology at University College Dublin.
The study included 172 children in Ireland, ages three to five years old, a quarter of whom were from Northern Ireland, where marketing regulations differ from the rest of the country.
Just over half of the kids attended school in a disadvantaged community, according to local government and education department data.
Parents filled out questionnaires about family demographics, eating habits and children’s TV viewing alone and with others.
Researchers surveyed the kids at school one at a time, showing them nine food brand logos and product images, four belonging to healthy foods and five to less healthy foods, all of which are widely advertised in Ireland.
The researchers first asked kids if they knew the brand name of a food based on the logo, then if they knew what kind of food it was, then if they could match the brand logo to a picture of the correct food product.
Kids’ scores on the brand questions rose for all types of foods between ages three and five, the authors report in the journal Appetite. On average, kids could name about a third of the brands, name the product type of half the brands and correctly match the images of almost two-thirds of the brands.
At all ages, kids were better at recognizing the less healthy foods. Their knowledge of unhealthy foods was most strongly predicted by how much unhealthy food their parents ate, and was not predicted by TV time or their mother’s education level, the researchers found.
“We definitely couldn’t conclude that marketing doesn’t work, we just need to look beyond TV,” Sandra Jones, director of the Center for Health Initiatives at the University of Wollongong in Australia, told Reuters Health.
Some of the healthy brands in the study, like Frube flavored yogurt in a tube and Cheestring string cheese, only refer to one specific food product, whereas the unhealthy brands, which included Cadbury’s, McDonalds and Coca-Cola, produce a wide range of products, she noted. This could have skewed the results, said Jones, who was not involved in the research.
Image: Boy eating candy, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, January 20th, 2014
American families are eating more meals at home, and those meals are healthier, a new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found. The findings include that Americans are consuming fewer calories overall, family meals are becoming more common, and more people are paying attention to the quality of the food they buy. More from Time.com:
Add a Comment
You can thank the recession, but when the economy started to sour in 2007, Americans stopped eating at restaurants and started to cook more meals at home. And most families have been listening to the onslaught of advice about how to eat healthier, since those meals were also respectably nutritious. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, adults born from 1946 to 1985 who were asked about their diets from 2005 to 2010 consumed fewer calories and less cholesterol and unhealthy fats.
“It’s good news for us,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, in a press conference.
Concannon said that while meals at home still make up a minority of the average American’s diet, the trend is encouraging and hopefully represents the beginning of a shift in the way families eat.
Thursday, January 16th, 2014
A study of the factors that contribute to obesity among preschool-aged children has identified these three as the most predictive of whether a child will be overweight: inadequate sleep, parents whose body mass index (BMI) numbers classify them as overweight or obese, and parent-imposed restrictions on food that are intended to help them manage weight. Interestingly, the study, which was published in the journal “Childhood Obesity,” found that restrictions on both healthy and unhealthy foods were equal predictors of weight problems in kids. Researchers from the University of Illinois had examined 22 possible risk factors before making their conclusions. More from a press release from the university:
“What’s exciting here is that these risk factors are malleable and provide a road map for developing interventions that can lead to a possible reduction in children’s weight status. We should focus on convincing parents to improve their own health status, to change the food environment of the home so that healthy foods are readily available and unhealthy foods are not, and to encourage an early bedtime,” said Brent McBride, a U of I professor of human development and director of the university’s Child Development Laboratory.
The researchers reached their conclusions after compiling the results from an extensive survey distributed to 329 parent-child dyads recruited from child-care programs in east-central Illinois as part of the U of I’s STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids Program. The current research is based on the first wave of data generated in this longitudinal study, taken when the children were two years old.
The survey yielded wide-ranging information on demographics, health histories of both child and parent, and pertinent feeding practices. Research assistants also did home visits with each participant, checking height and weight and taking further information about the parents’ history. The data was then subjected to statistical analysis.
As a result of that analysis, McBride and U of I nutritional sciences graduate student Dipti A. Dev offer some recommendations for families.
Parents should recognize that their food preferences are being passed along to their children and that these tastes are established in the preschool years, Dev said.
“If you, as an adult, live in a food environment that allows you to maintain an elevated weight, remember that your child lives in that environment too. Similarly, if you are a sedentary adult, you may be passing on a preference for television watching and computer games instead of playing chasing games with your preschooler or playing in the park,” she added.
Consider too that restricting your children’s access to certain foods will only make them want those foods more, she said.
“If kids have never had a chance to eat potato chips regularly, they may overeat them when the food appears at a friend’s picnic,” McBride said.
Instead, work on changing the food environment in your home so that a wide variety of healthy choices such as fruits and vegetables are available while unhealthy options are not, he added.
“And remember that it takes a certain number of exposures to a food before a child will try it, let alone like it, so you have to offer it to them over and over and over again. And they have to see you eat it over and over,” McBride noted.
Don’t use food to comfort your children when they are hurt or disappointed, do allow your preschoolers to select their foods as bowls are passed at family-style meals (no pre-plating at the counter—it discourages self-regulation), and encourage all your children to be thoughtful about what they are eating, the researcher said.
Need some ideas to make school lunches or dinner healthier? Download our free chart to easily help substitute healthier foods into your family’s meals.
Image: Child eating, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
Kids who throw food may actually be displaying signs they are learning, according to research from the University of Iowa. More from Time.com:
Researchers from the University of Iowa (UI) studied how 16 month olds learn the words for non-solid objects—things as oatmeal or applesauce or milk—that infants generally take longer to learn and found that those who messed with the substance the most learned the words more quickly. Babies’ brains usually pick up words for more immutable objects such as blocks, apples, or daddy, more easily because they can prod and pinch them and they remain the same, more or less, while non-solid objects are a bit more confusing. Think about applesauce: sometimes it’s shaped like a bowl, sometimes like a spoon and sometimes like a big blob on the floor. Or consider the similarities between glue and milk; if you didn’t touch them, they could seem pretty similar.
To test how toddlers learned the names of gloppy, changeable substances, researchers introduced 14 oozy items, mostly things the kids could safely put in their mouths, like applesauce, pudding, juice, or soup. As they offered the kids the items, they gave them made up names, such as “dax” or “kiv.” A short while later they asked the kids if they knew the name of one of the substances, presented in a different size or shape. Kids who could remember the name of the item were obviously relying on more than just what it looked like.
The kids who had really got their hands—and sometimes the walls or floors—dirty, seemed to be the ones who understood the differences in texture or viscosity better. All that fooling around was actually learning. It also helped if they were in a high chair. “It turns out that being in a high chair makes it more likely you’ll get messy, because kids know they can get messy there,” said Larissa Samuelson, associate professor in psychology at UI, who with doctoral student Lynn Perry and others, oversaw the Developmental Science paper. “Playing with these foods there actually helped these children in the lab, and they learned the names better.”
Add a Comment
Use our handy tracker
to see when she’ll hit behavioral and physical milestones! Also, be sure to browse through our parent-tested tantrum tricks